If you get a chance to talk to the Big Pink in the near future, please make the London duo feel bad. Insult their mothers. Remind them of the inevitability of death. Talk about how somewhere out there, a polar bear is stranded on an ice floe. It doesn’t matter — just make them unhappy. It’s much more conducive to their music.
The Big Pink
For their sophomore album Future This, electro boys Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell decided to stray from their darker sound found in 2009’s A Brief History of Love. In an interview with Spin, Cordell gave his opinion on the debut LP: “I think that first record wasn’t fun,” he said, elaborating on the shift in strategy for Future This. “We just tried to make something more positive, more upbeat, something more fun to dance to.”
In an attempt to make their fans happy, Furze and Cordell have fully embraced the temptation of pop, but the fun soon fizzles, and consuming too much of their bloated, bubbly, artificially-flavored electro-pop leaves the listener with a pounding headache.
“Stay Gold,” the first track and single off the album, starts off with an intro of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”-like quality. At that point, there is still hope, but then Furze begins singing lyrics that don’t really make any sense at all (“Up is up and so is down”) in an irritatingly British monotone. Then there’s the chorus: Furze pleading “stay gold” over and over — a line that, like it or not, will get stuck in your head upon first listen. Honestly, Robert Frost would have been indignant.
The next track, “Hit the Ground (Superman),” also starts off promisingly, beginning with a sinister beat accompanied with what sounds like a cackling cyborg. But next thing you know, Furze is screeching out trite lyrics in a chorus that sounds like it’s been done in fifty other pop songs. There is an interlude that offers some sort of relief in the form of warbling synthesizers and — is that an unplugged guitar? Yes, yes it is! Even this section, however, is highly layered, detracting from the precise minimalism the song begins with. But the most disappointing part of “Hit the Ground” is that the robo-laughter — the song’s most distinct aspect — is simply a sample of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman.” The sparseness of the original track is part of what made it so well received, but the Big Pink complicates its sound to the point of unpleasantness.
The simplicity that does exist in Future This is what offers some semblance of a break from the nonstop barrage of indistinguishable electronic noises and overly-accented whining. “The Palace” begins with a reverberating xylophone so meek it’s almost adorable. “77” is similarly toned down — lucid and uncomplicated in its instrumentation, with a less-shrill-than-usual chorus. Even the lyrics are more candid, discussing how Furze misses someone. As soon as the music becomes unguarded and remorseful, it loses its overhyped sweetness and is actually digestible.
The most captivating track of the album, “1313,” has an almost six-minute length — daunting to say the least — but the time frame allows the Big Pink to distribute melodies moderately rather than vomiting out electronic white noise for three minutes. The song has pleasantly distinct sections, finishing with a stream of distortion and a 40-second drum solo.
The Big Pink’s biggest problem with Future This is that it tries too hard to please. Furze and Cordell have jammed as many electronic flourishes as possible into this album in an attempt to sound poppy and danceable, but what is meant to be lighthearted and energetic instead leaves listeners lightheaded and exhausted. The Big Pink needs to be reminded to focus on the music first, and the enjoyment will come naturally.